Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Erin Bird

We interrupt our current Advent Conspiracy series (again), to simply wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Take some time today to thank God for Jesus, for His love, and for whatever else comes to your mind and heart. And if you can’t think of what to thank God for, look around, look back, and look deeper. (If that doesn’t make sense, listen to last Sunday’s sermon.)

But on this Thanksgiving holiday, I want to encourage you to do one more thing. I want you to “give thanks” by telling someone “thank you.” It might be a parent for all he or she has done for you. It might be a mentor who invested in you. It might be your spouse for helping you. It might be a co-worker or classmate who served you. It might be a neighbor or anyone that God places on your heart.

As important as it is to “give thanks [to God] in all circumstances,” it is equally important to “give thanks” to those God has used in your life. So shoot someone a text, or email, or even a phone call today just to say “Thank You!”

Assured by the Gospel

Assured by the Gospel

Back to our Gospel Facets series…

Longing for Peace
I was really surprised at just how nervous I was. I was in a hotel room in Minneapolis on the final day of a church planting assessment center. As LeAnn and I sat in the hotel room, the “assessors” were back at the church building where they had been assessing all of the church planting candidates for the past three days. These assessors were planning to talk late into the night about each candidate and his/her spouse and whether or not they were going to recommend each of us for church planting.

I knew God had called me to plant a church. I had already spent two years praying about it, then spent a year fundraising. I also spent a year in Kansas City working at a church to learn more about church planting. And LeAnn and I had already selected Waverly, Iowa as the location where we felt God calling us to plant.

And yet, I was still nervous that a group of men and women might render a verdict of “no” to my calling of church planting after all I had been through.

Ever been there? It probably wasn’t at a church planting assessment center, but perhaps you were nervous that she might say no to your marriage proposal, or nervous that he wouldn’t call back after the first date, or nervous that someone else was going to get the job.

If you are like me, you didn’t revel in that nervous feeling. (Anxiousness isn’t exactly an emotion I enjoy!) In the midst of your nervousness, what you longed for was peace.

Peace in the Gospel
I think humans around the globe and throughout time have longed for peace not just in their careers, or marriages, or spiritual callings. I think we also have a spiritual longing for peace.

But so many humans don’t have peace about their spiritual standing before the Divine. They know they have done some bad things in life,  so they seek to make it up to God through good works.

But there is a problem with building a relationship with God based upon your efforts to do right. The problem is how do you know when you have done enough good to offset your bad?

  • Is helping the little old lady across the street enough?
  • Or do you also have to give 10% of your income?
  • Or is 10% not enough – do you have to give 50%?
  • And is it okay to only read the Bible two or three times each week, or does it have to be everyday?
  • How good is good enough?

If this is your mindset, I have some bad news for you. Nothing you can do will repay the spiritual debt you owe God. The debt of your sin is death. So you can help thousands of little old ladies safely cross a busy intersection, but that won’t pay off your death penalty.

But there is some good news in all of this. While YOU can’t find peace with God through your good works, Jesus did the one and only good work that could pay off your spiritual debt. Jesus died on the cross in your place, fulfilling the demand for justice. Even though He had never sinned, Jesus died in the sinner’s place, so that sinner’s could be freed and made into saints.

This is the gospel! And this truth should bring you peace, giving you an assurance of God’s love for you and His ability to remove your sin.

So if you find yourself questioning whether or not God loves you, look to the cross and empty tomb to find peace! Be assured that when you placed your faith in Jesus, He was able and just to forgive you of your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.

The Exchange of the Gospel

The Exchange of the Gospel

By Erin Bird

Ever heard of the game “Bigger and Better?” Typically, the game involves sending a group of people out door-to-door to attempt to trade something small for something bigger and better. In our first year of marriage, LeAnn and I had a group of kids from our church’s youth group stop by our condo, and we ended up giving them our broken down turn-table stereo system (I forget the “small” thing we got in exchange).

Several years ago, I heard a TED Talk from a guy who played “Bigger and Better,” but rather than play it by going door to door, he basically played the game through the Internet utilizing Craigslist, Reddit, and the media. His experience with the game started with a red paper clip but eventually turned into a house.

In that TED Talk, there comes a moment where Kyle (the speaker) shares about one trade that seems like an ludicrously bad trade. He traded away concert tickets and a day with a rock star for a snow globe.

Yes, a snow globe.

(Just a heads up: if you go watch that TED Talk, there is some mild language.)

Now, I won’t go into all the details, but I will point out that the snow globe ended up being the very thing that made way for him to get the house. It wasn’t a direct trade, but without the snow globe, Kyle doesn’t get the house.

The Great-yet-Bad Exchange
Kyle’s “Bigger & Better” game illustrates an important facet found within the gospel. Second Corinthians 5:21 says,

“For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (ESV)

Take a moment to think about that verse. God the Father placed all of our sin upon Jesus, the only man to have ever lived without sin, so that the wrath of God could come against sin (rather than come upon us, the sin-doers.) And yet, while Jesus took our sin, He gave us His righteousness.

Talk about a bad trade for Jesus! He gives us His right standing before the Father while taking upon Himself the sin that kept us from God.

This is the Great Exchange. Our sin for His righteousness. That’s a far worse trade than a snow globe for concert tickets and back-stage passes.

And yet, Jesus gladly made the trade. His love for you so overwhelmed Him, He was willing to take your sin upon Himself so that sin could be defeated through the cross. And by doing so, He could then give you His righteousness so that you could come back into a relationship with the Most High And Holy God.

And what did Jesus get out of the whole deal? He got you! It broke the heart of God to have you stolen away by sin, so Jesus was willing to pay the ultimate cost to have you back.

I will admit I have days where this powerful truth barely phases me. I’ve been following Jesus since I was 4-years-old and unfortunately have allowed this facet to become  somewhat commonplace in my thinking.

If you are like me, may this truth shake us out of our spiritual slumber. May we stop and be overwhelmed by God’s love for us. May we marvel at the willingness of Jesus to become sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. And may we be humbled by this Great Exchange.

Reconciled through the Gospel

Reconciled through the Gospel

By Erin Bird

The word “reconciliation” is being used a fair amount in our culture these days, often paired with the word “racial.” The racial tension in many portions of our country is at a fever pitch, leading many to talk about the need for the races to be “reconciled.”

But what does the word “reconcile” truly mean?

The Oxford Dictionary on my Mac defines “reconcile” as a verb meaning “to restore friendly relations between.” When it comes to race, there clearly are not “friendly relations” existing among some people of various races. There are white people who distrust Blacks, Hispanics, and/or Asians, and there are Black people who distrust Whites, Asians, and/or Hispanics. And there are Asian people who distrust people of other races, and there are Hispanics that have racial distrust as well. So you can see why these broken racial relationships lead some people to rightly call for “racial reconciliation.”

But the word “reconcile” isn’t relegated just to the racial realm. It can be used in all sorts of areas of life.

  • If you are married, and you have have a big blow up with your spouse, you need to be reconciled.
  • If a friend betrays you by gossiping about you, you might hope for reconciliation.
  • Or if you are a parent and  one of your children walks away from a relationship with you,  a huge part you longs to be reconciled with your child.

Reconciled to God
The Gospel story from Scripture tells us that we had a broken relationship with God. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit as seen in Genesis 3, their relationship with God shattered, and every human born since has been born relationally-separated from their Creator. But God did not wait for Adam and Eve’s descendants to apologize and return to Him. Rather, He made the first move by coming to earth Himself and repairing the broken relationship by paying our penalty for us. Through the cross, He sought to “restore friendly relations between” Him and humanity.

This is the deepest form of reconciliation anyone could experience! Which means, if you have had the joy of a broken relationship being reconciled, whether with a spouse, friend, child, parent, boss, or whoever, that reconciled relationship actually points to Gospel reconciliation.

So this week may you find joy in knowing that God has “restores friendly relations between” you and Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus!

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